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Racine Raiders

Raiders right fit for Kegel

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Don Kegel Racine Raiders.jpg

Racine Raiders’ Dom Kegel escapes Lake Geneva Generals tacklers during a July 20 Mid-States Football League game at Lake Geneva. Kegel, who rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns and threw a touchdown pass in the Raiders’ 44-29 victory over the Generals, has emerged as an all-purpose threat in his first season with the 6-0 Raiders.

RACINE — It wasn’t Dom Kegel’s intention to play for the Racine Raiders when he and his wife, Susan, moved here last November.

Racine became the 20th location Kegel has called home and he was prepared to leave football behind. Instead, the idea was to settle down, spend some quality time with Susan, who works in intelligence as a sergeant in the Air Force, and raise their new son, Finland (named in honor of one of Kegel’s favorite residences), who was born last February.

But Kegel decided to see what these Raiders were all about. And what they ended up with — at least for this season — is one of the brightest young athletes the team has seen in several years.

“There’s nothing I don’t like about Dom Kegel,” Raiders coach Gino Perfetto said.

Added offensive coordinator Matt Nelson, “Dom can do whatever he wants to do. He’s that kind of athlete.”

Kegel excelled at quarterback when Craig McClelland was committed to attend a wedding July 20. He has since emerged into a starter at receiver and is coming off his finest performance last Saturday against the Monona Warriors.

And to think Kegel could have easily been focusing on the domestic life in the Racine home he and his wife bought. At least that was the idea after the former National Christian College Athletic Association All-American at Greenville (Ill.) College finished up with the Seinajoki Crocodiles in Finland last season.

But then his father, Mike, a minister and a 1972 graduate of Milwaukee Marquette High School, made him aware of the Raiders.

“I hung up the cleats after last year and felt I was kind of done,” Kegel said. “And then my dad said, ‘Are you going to play for the Raiders?’ And I was like, ‘Who are the Raiders?’

“I was excited about not playing and not traveling and being with my family, especially with a baby on the way, But, just on whim, I went to a workout they had at Carthage and met some of the coaches.”

It was enough to draw Kegel back into football, which was a fortunate development for the Raiders.

His coming-out party was July 20, when he was pressed into service at quarterback. Playing with the poise of a McClelland, Kegel rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries and threw a 32-yard scoring pass to Traves Worthington

in the Raiders’ 44-29 Mid-States Football League victory over the Lake Geneva Generals at Lake Geneva.

“I wasn’t really comfortable running this offense because it’s more suited to Craig’s ability and he’s really, really good at what he does,” Kegel said. “It was kind of ugly at some points, but we got a win.”

Once McClelland returned, Kegel moved to receiver and was so impressive that he has become a starter with veteran Dorian Palmer.

He gave a hint of what could be in store during a 72-0 victory over the Monona Warriors last Saturday, catching six passes for 121 yards and one touchdown.

“That first catch for a touchdown (a 40-yard pass from McClelland), I just felt I had a piano on my back,” Kegel said.

That’s how talented of an athlete he is.

“He made a catch in our scrimmage back in June where he broke to the corner of the end zone and the ball was thrown a little inside,” Nelson said. “He did a 180-degree turn, caught it, and still got his feet in bounds.

“We just stopped and said, ‘I can’t believe what we just saw!’ ”

Will this be a one-year deal for Kegel? Possibly. His wife is being deployed for the better part of 2014 and Kegel, who is program director of BelleTV in Racine, will be on his own raising Finland.

But then, Kegel also thought 2012 would be his final season in football.

“One thing I learned is you just take one year at a time,” Kegel said. “All I know is I’m enjoying it right now, so I’ll do it right now.”

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